October 20, 2021
7 Minutes

Zen In The Art Of Writing

Book summary of Zen In The Art Of Writing by Ray Bradbury. Read this book summary to review the important takeaways and lessons from the book.

Bradbury On Creativity

  • I finally figured out that if you are going to step on a live mine, make it your own. Be blown up, as it were, by your delights and despairs.

  • When people ask me where I get my ideas, I laugh. How strange – we're so busy looking out, to find ways and means, we forget to look in.

  • A small echo may start an idea. A big one may result in a story.

  • I thought you could beat, pummel, and thrash an idea into existence. Under such treatment, any decent idea folds up its paws turns on its back, fixes its eyes on eternity, and dies.

  • Ugliness is a concept that we happen on later.

  • That's the great secret of creativity. You treat ideas like cats: you make them follow you.

  • I believe that eventually, the quantity will make for quality.

  • Quantity gives experience. From experience alone can quality come.

  • The artist learns what to leave out.

  • The artist must work so hard, that a brain develops and lives, all of itself, in his fingers.

  • The artist must not think of the critical rewards or money he will get for painting pictures. He must think of beauty here in this brush ready to flow if he will release it.

  • Not to work is to cease, destructive of the creative process.

  • How does one get lost? Through incorrect aims, as I have said. Through wanting literary fame too quickly. From wanting money too soon. If only we could remember, fame and wealth are gifts given us only after we have gifted the world with our best and individual truths.

  • To feed your Muse, then, you should always be hungry about life.

  • Writing is survival. Any art, any good work, is that.

  • Living in itself is the most fabulous art of all.

  • Who are your friends? Do they believe in you? Or do they stunt your growth with ridicule and disbelief? If the latter, you haven't got friends. Find some.

  • Or worse still we conceive the idea of working for money. The money becomes the object, the target, the end-all and be-all. Thus work, being necessary only as a means to that end, degenerates into boredom.

Bradbury On Life's Journey

  • Yell. Jump. Play. Out-run those sons-of-bitches. They'll never live the way you live.

  • Being alive is a gift and a privilege. Not a right.

  • The smallest effort to win means, at the end of each day, a sort of victory.

  • Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day, putting the pieces together.

  • Ideas lie everywhere, like apples fallen and melting in the grass.

  • I was too young to identify my problem; I was so busy imitating.

  • Everything I've ever done was done with excitement because I wanted to do it.

  • To feed well is to grow. To work well and continually is to keep what you have learned and know in prime condition. Experience. Labor. These are the twin sides of the coin. When spun, it is neither experience nor labour, but the moment of revelation.

  • We all need someone higher, wiser, older to tell us we're not crazy after all.

  • Drunk with life, that is, and not knowing where off to next. But you're on your way before dawn. And the trip? Exactly one-half terror, precisely one-half exhilaration.

  • The more I did, the more I wanted to do.

  • I have not so much thought my way through life as done things and found what it was and who I was after the doing. Each tale was a way of finding selves. Each self-found each day slightly different from the one found twenty-four hours earlier.

  • Now while I have you here before my platform, what words shall I whip forth painted in red letters ten feet tall? Work. That's the first one. Relaxation. That's the second. Followed by two final ones: don't think!

  • You want fame and fortune, yes, but only as rewards for work well done. Notoriety and a fat bank balance must come after everything else is finished and done.

  • How can you work and relax? How can you create and not be a nervous wreck? It's possible. Athletes do it. Painters do it.

  • Work, giving us experience, results in new confidence and eventually in relaxation.

  • The arrow must fly on its way to a target that you must not consider.

  • Work and imitation go together in the process of learning.

  • Life is short, misery sure, mortality inevitable. But on the way, in your work, why not carry those two inflated pig-bladders labelled Zest and Gusto.

Bradbury On Philosophy

  • We live surrounded by paradoxes.

  • No man sees the same events in the same order, in his life.

  • The logic of events always gives way to the logic of the senses.

  • I am not one thing.

  • Man, the problem solver, is that only because he is the 'idea keeper'.

  • There will always be problems. Thank God for that. And solutions. Thank God for that.

  • The subliminal eye is shrewd.

  • We all are rich and ignore the buried fact of accumulated wisdom.

  • The surgeon must not think of his fee, but the life that is beating under his hands.

  • The athlete must ignore the crowd and let his body run the race for him.

  • To fail is to give up. But you are in the midst of a moving process. Nothing fails then. All goes on. If it's good, you learn from it. If it is bad, you learn even more. Work behind you is a lesson to be studied. There is no failure unless one stops.

Bradbury On Poetry

  • Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don't use often enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your ear, your tongue, your hand.

  • When did you last read a book of poetry or take time, of an afternoon, for an essay or two?

  • And when a man talks from his heart, in his moment of truth, he speaks poetry.

Bradbury On Writing

  • If you do not write every day, the poisons will accumulate, and you will begin to die.

  • You must stay drunk on writing, so reality cannot destroy you.

  • If you are writing without zest, without love, without fun, you are only half a writer.

  • The first thing a writer should be is – excited.

  • Run fast, standstill. This, the lesson from lizards. For all writers.

  • The sooner you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are.

  • How do you commence to start to begin an almost new kind of writing, to terrify and scare? You stumble into it, mostly. You don't know what you're doing, and it's suddenly done.

  • The problem for any writer in any field is being circumscribed by what has gone before.

  • Each story should read like a weather report: Hot today, cold tomorrow. This afternoon, burn down the house. Tomorrow, pour cold, critical water upon the simmering coals.

  • I realised I had, at last, written an excellent story. The first, in ten years of writing.

  • To convince your reader that he is there, you must assault each of his senses.

  • Read those authors who write the way you hope to write, those who think the way you would like to think. But also read those who do not believe the things you do or write as you want to write, and get stimulated in ways you might not take for many years.

  • Have you written enough so that you are relaxed and can allow the truth to get out without being ruined by self-conscious posturing or changed by a desire to become rich

  • Writing is supposed to be difficult, agonising, a dreadful exercise, a terrible occupation.

  • All during my early twenties, I had the following schedule. On Monday morning, I wrote the first draft of a story. On Tuesday, I did a second draft. On Wednesday a third. On Thursday a fourth. On Friday a fifth. And on Saturday at noon, I mailed out the sixth and final draft to New York. Sunday? I thought about all the wild ideas scrambling for my attention, waiting under the attic lid, confident at last that, I would soon let them out.

  • I don't believe in tampering with any young writer's material.

  • I've tried to teach my writing friends that there are two arts: number one, getting a thing done; and then, the other great art is learning how to cut it, so you don't hurt it in any way.

  • When you start life as a writer, you hate that job. Still, now that I'm older, it's turned into a beautiful game, and I love the challenge just as much as writing the original because it's a challenge. It's an intellectual challenge to get a scalpel and cut the patient without killing.

  • If you can find the right metaphor, the right image, it can replace four pages of dialogue.

  • I may be the most cinematic novelist in the country today. All of my short stories can be shot right off the page. Each paragraph is a shot.

  • I'm accustomed, you see, to getting up every morning, running to the typewriter, and in an hour I've created a world. I don't have to wait for anyone. I don't have to criticise anyone. All I need is an hour, and I'm ahead of everyone. The rest of the day, I can do what I want.

  • It is a lie to write in such a way as to be rewarded by fame offered you by some snobbish quasi-literary group in the intellectual gazettes.

  • What is the greatest reward a writer can have? Isn't it that day when someone rushes up to you, his face bursting with honesty, his eyes afire with admiration.

  • The writer must let his fingers run out the story of his characters, who, being only human and full of strange dreams and obsessions, are only too glad to run.

  • I hasten to add here that imitation is natural and necessary to the beginning writer.

  • Everywhere you look in the literary cosmos; the great ones are busy loving and hating. Have you given up this primary business as obsolete in your writing?

  • For only after, examine and explain. To try to know beforehand is to freeze and kill.

  • It is a lie to write in such a way as to be rewarded with money.

Join over a thousand readers and get my short and insightful biweekly email. I share seven notable highlights from my latest book summary in the email.